The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has 57 members. This is the largest inter-country organisation after the United Nations. This bloc represents around 1.8 billion people. Every year the OIC foreign ministers meet and the heads of state meet every three years. However, there is hardly any tangible output of these meetings. Even after the killing of Irani general Qasem Soleimani when the entire Middle East is on war footing, OIC remains silent.
Among the OIC member states, 53 have a Muslim majority. One of the main constructive aims of this organisation is to look after the interests of this religious community and to enhance cooperation among these countries. But it rarely has played such a role. It has failed to increase economic cooperation on one hand, and on the other, it has increased the distance between Shiites and Sunnis. This distance has been exacerbated with the killing of General Soleimani. OIC has also failed to dissipate the artificial Islamophobia of Europe and America.
OIC isolated, not Israel
There are many wealthy members state within OIC. It has many poor member states too. Some countries of huge capital, some have huge human resources. Together, OIC could have worked wonders. But the opposite has occurred, There are 26 million refugees in the world and 80 per cent of them are Muslim. And 9 million global refugees are the result of the conditions in Syria and Afghanistan.
Even many of the Muslims in their own lands are not at peace. Despite many wealthy countries being members of OIC, 25 per cent of the people within the member states do not have access to safe drinking water and essential healthcare. Though they comprise around one fourth of the world’s population, they account for only 7 to 8 per cent of the global GDP.
The names of OIC countries are nowhere near the top of the human development indexes, not even among the top 30. One in every 10 people in the world live below the poverty line and in the OIC countries this is one in every 5. OIC has invested very little in education research and innovation, though 70 per cent of the world’s energy resources come from its member states.
OIC has also been a failure in resolving conflict among its own member states. The Saudi blockade of war-torn Yemen is an example. The OIC leaders have failed to protect the people of the Ummah, they have even failed to protect themselves, as we seen in the case of Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi. Saddam at one point of time fought a proxy war for the US against Iran. And Iran was at one time was an ally of the US against the Afghan Taliban.
Libya today stands as a mockery of the OIC ‘united Muslim world’ concept. Various members of the block are backing various factions within Libya. OIC has never stood united for the suffering Muslims from Kashmir to Yemen, Afghanistan to Somalia.
The most glaring example of OIC’s failure is the political and humanitarian predicament of Palestine. Most of the OIC member states remain impervious to this situation. OIC was created in 1969 over the issue of protecting the Al Aqsa mosque from Israel and yet many of the OIC countries are now allies of Israel. Instead of isolating Israel, OIC itself has become insignificant. Egypt is one of the main allies in the Gaza blockade.
Narrow nationalist interests
There are ideological contradictions within all OIC countries. Pakistan wants to activate OIC on the Kashmir issue, though it prefers to remain silent about the Uyghurs in China. The Kashmir issue was not included in the final declaration of OIC’s 48th summit due to UAE and Saudi Arabia’s influence.
There is conflict within OIC over every issue in the Islamic world. That is why this bloc can to nothing to prevent Israeli aggression in Lebanon. It failed to prevent Russian and American aggression in Afghanistan. It could have played a stronger role in halting the repression of the Rohingyas in Arakan.
Narrow nationalist interests of the OIC members are the main reason behind its failure to reach its target. There are plenty of examples where one member state does not hesitate to enforce a blockade against another. OIC has no arbitration framework to assuage differences among its members. Old bitterness continues to fester relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan and others. It was not the general people but the leaders who had brought on such conflict and the OIC provided them with a platform.
OIC failed to uphold Arab Spring
Turning a blind eye to political differences to back, OIC at several times took up costly economic initiatives but these failed due to the lack of political unity, commitment and competence. There was a lack of political good governance.
Many OIC countries do not even have a minimum semblance of elections. The democratic relations between the people and the rulers in such countries are weak. Given the absence of political contest, there is intellectual paucity among the rulers of many of these states. But this does not hamper them from clinging to power through their autocratic rules.
A wave against such autocratic rule had arisen among the youth of the Arab world, leading to the Arab Spring, but OIC failed to lend them support. When an elected government was toppled by the military in Egypt in 2013, this was supported by many OIC member states.
There are even views that due to OIC, many non-Muslim countries have benefitted by the Muslim countries remaining in a weakened state. It is due to their strong bonds with the ruling families of many of the prominent OIC states that the US and Israel have managed to implement their plans within the Arab world. The latest example of this is the drone attack on the Baghdad airport.
OIC fails to speak for the Ummah
It had been thought that the OIC would be a modern interpretation of the Muslim Ummah. It was to be a sort of commonwealth of the Muslim countries and communities. But that did not happen. Last year records showed that only 9 per cent of the trade of these countries was carried out among each other. That is not so in the case of ASEAN or the African Union.
Fifty years is a long time for any organisation. But OIC is not just old, it has lost its efficacy. Yemen is not far from the OIC headquarters. Every day this organisation is also stained by the blood of Yemen. Yet the Madinah Charter prohibits one Muslim from killing another.
* Altaf Parvez is a researcher. This piece has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir